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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA National Correspondent
  Professional golf’s most storied event could have the game’s most electrifying player tee off.
  Just one year removed from a horrific car accident that left him worried about losing a leg, Tiger Woods is preparing a comeback for the ages at this year’s Masters, which opens Thursday, April 7, at Augusta National.
  The recently minted Hall of Famer completed a practice round, and, while he hasn’t confirmed, multiple golf writers said they expect Woods to play.
  “Sources confirmed. Tiger Woods is playing in The Masters,” Mad Dog Radio and Fox Sports commentator George Wrighster III tweeted to his 67,000 followers.
  Former golfer Shooter McGavin claimed Augusta National would allow Woods to ride a cart if he chooses to play.
  “This is a pure opinion; I don’t know anything more than the rest of you. But I have reached the point where I would be surprised if Tiger Woods does not play in the Masters,” Golf Digest Writer Dan Rapaport said.
  Golf Magazine’s Michael Bamberger said Woods could easily wait until Monday, April 4, before the tournament, before the groups for the first two rounds are announced, before announcing his intentions.
  “What we know with certainty is this, not because of anything Woods has said, but because we’ve been watching him for more than 25 years: If he can play, he will. That’s in his DNA,” Bamberger wrote.
  On February 23, 2021, having already come back from multiple back surgeries, Woods lost control of his vehicle near a hillside outside Los Angeles.
  The frightening photos published in the wreck’s aftermath left many wondering if Woods would survive the accident. He later revealed that he feared amputation.
  “It’s been tough, but I’ve gotten here, I’ve gotten this far, and I still have a long way to go,” Woods said in February.
  And at an emotional ceremony to induct Woods into the World Golf Hall of Fame at the PGA TOUR headquarters in Florida in March, the usually guarded and composed legend was reduced to tears.
  His daughter, Sam, issued a heart-warming induction speech.
“Dad, I inducted you into the ‘Dad Hall of Fame’ a long time ago,” the 14-year-old remarked.
Sam also provided insight into the state of the Woods family in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
  “We didn’t know if you’d come home with two legs or not,” she said. “Now, not only are you about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but you’re standing here on your own two feet. This is why you deserve this because you’re a fighter.”
  That fight again faces a significant test if Woods, the owner of 15 major championship victories, does appear at The Masters.
  His former swing coach, Hank Haney, believes Woods could win his 16th major if he plays.
  “So, he’s saying I can walk no problem on a treadmill, but it’s not the same as walking on the golf course,” Haney said during his “The Hank Haney Podcast.
  “No, it’s not, but you can tilt your treadmill on an incline, and I promise you he has it on an incline … He’s doing beach walks … walking in the sand … that was a month ago, two months ago? Plenty of time to make some more progress … it sounds like he’s made a lot of progress.”
  Earlier, Haney proved more definitive in his assessment of Woods.
  “I’ve been saying this for a year. If Tiger can walk again, he can win again.”

Bad Weather didn't Dampen Good Vibes at the Players Championship
By Stacy M. Brown, 
NNPA Newswire National Correspondent
  Rain, thunderstorms, and an otherwise unplayable course delayed THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
  But the elements did little to spoil a week that not only showcases the best golf players in the world but the unmistakable efforts by the PGA TOUR to display the many ways the game has embraced diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  A “Fairways Fore Excellence Forum” included more than 50 first-generation scholars, college students, and student-athletes from area colleges, universities, and HBCUs.
  They participated in a sports and education forum at Sawgrass Marriott.
  The event included enthusiastic members of the PGA TOUR’s ‘CORE’ employee resource group, which promotes and highlights diversity in the PGA TOUR culture.
  It spotlighted the wide variety of career opportunities in golf and sport and included a “Beyond the Sport” panel that featured alumni of the PGA TOUR’s minority internship program.
  Local First Tee students unveiled unique putting green designs in Morgan Stanley’s Eagles for Impact tent adjacent to the 18th fairway on the sacred grounds of TPC Sawgrass.
  While Tiger Woods and his daughter Sam captivated the crowd during the iconic golfer’s World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Renee Powell earned honors as the inaugural recipient of the Charlie Sifford Award.
  Sifford, for whom Woods named his son Charlie after, broke the color barrier in 1959 when he became the first Black player to participate on the PGA TOUR.
  Powell, who in 1967 became the second African American woman to compete on the LPGA Tour, recalled Sifford and her father, William’s influence.
  In 1946, William Powell founded the Clearview Golf Club, the first U.S. golf course designed, built, owned, and operated by an African American.
  “It was as a child of 12 that I first saw Charlie when we were competitors in the old UGA National Tournament, he in the pro division and me in the girls’ junior division,” Powell said during the ceremony.
  “I was sitting in the audience 17 years ago, along with my dad, and listening and crying as Charlie made his acceptance speech, and it was simply from the heart.”
  She continued:
  “Charlie was on a walker and not in the best of health when he and Charles Jr. arrived and walked up the steps of the church at my dad’s funeral on a very cold winter day in 2010. Five years later, I spoke at his funeral in Cleveland.”
  Powell recalled the lessons she learned from her parents and brothers, who taught her how to overcome unfair barriers.
  “And if Charlie would not have made the sacrifice to break barriers in joining the PGA, there would not be this Charlie Sifford Award,” Powell exclaimed.
  She concluded that Sifford and her father loved golf so much that each was willing to “make incredible sacrifices to create opportunities for all to play our sport.”
  “So, our sport really can only remain healthy when we are indeed diverse and inclusive of all people,” Powell said.
  In addition to Woods, former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, three-time U.S. Women’s Open Champ Susie Maxwell Berning, and former U.S. Women’s Amateur Champ Marion Hollins earned Hall of Fame nods.
  Peter Ueberroth and the late Dick Ferris snagged Lifetime Achievement Awards.
  One of four Black golfers on the PGA TOUR, Joseph Bramlett, counted among the first timers at THE PLAYERS.
  PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan distributed Tiffany cufflinks to Bramlett and other first-time participants at THE PLAYERS Championship.
  “I’ve dreamed of playing this tournament for a very long time,” Bramlett told NNPA Newswire. “It’s taking a lot of time, I’ve had a few injuries and some tough moments, but here we are still going.”
  While Bramlett’s first time playing at THE PLAYERS may have been different from the dozens of minorities participating in the various PGA TOUR sponsored events during the week, it certainly didn’t surpass the experience they soaked in.
  “This is like Disneyland,” proclaimed high school senior at First Tee veteran Alanis Santiago Maldanado.
  Manyi Ngo, another First Tee participant and high school senior echoed her peer.
  “It’s unusual to be able to say that I’m on the same course with Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau,” Manyi asserted.
  “Quite of few of them have also been a part of First Tee and being able to meet those people and look up to them – like I can aspire to that, and maybe I won’t play professional golf, but I can be that successful and confident.”

Excitement Builds for Shocking Tiger Woods return to the Masters